I’ve been going to Ops Manage for a few years now and I can honestly say each year it has gotten progressively better. I hear from the old timers about how over the top WonderWorld used to be but overall I think it’s a pretty good conference. If you’re trying to convince yourself or your boss that you should be going here are some points to consider and things to try out on those holding the purse strings.
1) It’s a great place to hear about what’s new. Yes you can read about these things in the press releases afterwards but there’s something cool about being the first to hear about new features and new directions.
2) You’ll get a good sense of where the entire ship is headed. The keynotes do a good job of laying out a vision bigger than just a product here and a product there. You can really see this “Enterprise Control System” strategy coming together.
3) The networking is great! No, not the wireless networks… the people you geek! Where else can you get the chance to sit down with product managers, company directors, big thinkers, and other interesting people. What’s cool about this is that you don’t really have to do anything special to get these meetings. When you get your breakfast or lunch, paruse the room for folks with interesting name tags and sit down next to them at the table. 99 times out of a 100 they are very interested in chatting up the customers or the integrators. You would be amazed at how receptive they might be to your issue. I had a laundry list of issues that I presented to someone in the management realm a few years back. Within a few months that list had turned into a formal internal work list and some of those exact items I complained about are now showing up in future releases (keeping mum on exactly what these features are because I probably shouldn’t know about them anyway )
Aside from networking with Wonderware folks there is also the chance to chat up other customers and integrators. I’ve made quite a few connections with people at the conference that I stay in touch with to this day. It’s kinda neat to watch everyone grow through the years as we all get a little older and wiser.
4) The Opryland is an AMAZING place. Unless you really want to, you literally won’t need to leave the property during your entire stay.
5) It’s not like it’s Vegas or something where you can get in trouble. All in all Nashville is a pretty serene place, not too many places to tear it up. On the other hand if you want a fine steak make sure you make your way to the Stockyard. Just be careful not to park in the empty spot right under the tree up front. If you didn’t notice the spot covered in white droppings from the birds you’ll certainly notice it on your car when you return. Also, if you like to pluck the strings, Gruhn Guitar is a must visit. I’ve been a couple times and even for a rank amateur like myself they were great guys and welcomed me in to play whatever I wanted. I did get the chance to play a $20K Martin. Didn’t sound too great as I was a tad nervous you could imagine.
6) Free Training? Did I say Free? It’s not quite the full week training you’ll get from your local distributor or in Lake Forest but they have numerous 2 and 4 hour training sessions to get you up and running on a number of different products.
7) Meet your favorite support engineer. I’ve talked to so many of them over the years that it’s pretty cool to actually meet some of these folks in person like Chris Azer, Sri, Bindya, Alicia Rantos, Nitin, Edward Xu, and a whole host of others. They feel like old friends
8) Finally I haven’t even gotten to the actual presentations. Some of these are really really good. I still learn cool tricks every time I go. There is usually a good mix of Wonderware proper presentations, customers, and integrators.
I hope some of these tidbits will help you over the fence if you haven’t quite decided whether you should go.